Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 34

Thought leader
Unshackling Africa’s economic growth
Unchecked, rising inequality is one of the most important risks to the
sustainability of African growth. Africa is in much better shape than it was
30 years ago. Growth has risen, poverty has been reduced, violent conflicts
are less prevalent, and democracy and other forms of accountability are
found in many more countries. The risk, writes Alan Hirsch, is that these
gains are not consolidated and Africa slips into the same kind of stagnation
that afflicted it in the 1980s and early 1990s.
The current slowdown is quite a serious challenge
to sustainable African growth. Compounded with
drought, humanitarian and financial crises are
likely. Added to this, very few African countries
are trying to compete globally in growing markets
with new exports.
Growth has not led to greater competitiveness.
While there are some productivity gains, especially in
agriculture and mining, Africa is largely not catching up
with global competitiveness trends.
Finally, Africa’s growth has not been equal. The income
and wealth gaps between countries — as well as the
gaps within many countries — are growing.
Inequality in Africa a grave concern
Southern Africa tends to have the most inequality
within countries. South Africa (SA), Namibia and
Botswana are among some of the most unequal
countries in the world, and Angola and Zambia are
not far off.
The average Gini coefficient for Africa is 0.43, which
is significantly greater than the coefficient for the rest
of the developing world at 0.39. On average, the top
20% of earners in Africa have an income that is more
than 10 times that of the bottom 20%.
Gender inequality is a critical issue and it is not

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